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Pawar, Omar question snoop panel rush

New Delhi, May 4: The Centre today appeared to have hit a roadblock on the inquiry into a woman’s alleged surveillance by the Narendra Modi government, with UPA allies NCP and the National Conference opposing plans to appoint a judge before the May 16 results.

The Sharad Pawar-led NCP asserted it was not questioning the probe itself but its “timing”, while National Conference leader and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said any such decision taken “in the dying hours” of the government would be wrong.

Pawar is understood to have called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to voice his objections. “We are not opposed to the commission of inquiry but feel that the timing of the government’s move is not right,” NCP leader Praful Patel said.

Omar struck a similar note. “Was talking to my dad (Union minister Farooq Abdullah) last night & he felt the same way — setting up a commission of inquiry in the dying hours of UPA 2 is just wrong,” Omar tweeted.

The Centre appeared to have been taken aback by the dissent. Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who had announced the judge-appointment plan last week, did not seem as firm today when asked about the allies’ objections.

“I cannot say anything right now… We have not decided on the judge yet but we have taken a cabinet decision,” Shinde said.

Sources said the government was yet to finalise the name of a sitting or former judge to probe the alleged stalking and unauthorised surveillance of a woman architect by the Modi government in 2009.

The BJP, which had earlier dubbed the move a “political and mala fide” exercise to “target” Modi and warned it would review the “illegitimate” decision if it came to power, seized on the UPA schism today.

Asked about the rumblings in the ruling combine, BJP spokesperson M.J. Akbar welcomed the NCP stand and said the Congress was pursuing the “politics of vendetta”. “They (the UPA partners) are telling the Congress that, please, for god’s sake, stop this politics of filth and get back to the politics of issues,” Akbar said.

The Centre had last December cleared the proposal to set up a single-judge panel. Shinde had cited the December clearance to argue there would be no violation of the election code if a judge was picked now.

But today, Omar appeared to question the contention. “If the decision was taken in December it should have been implemented. To appoint a judge five months later is wrong,” he tweeted.

Omar’s objection is significant as he has resolutely backed the Centre and rarely opposed its decisions. Only yesterday, he had blamed BJP prime ministerial candidate Modi for inciting violence in Assam that has left over 30 people dead.

Last week, the BJP had insisted the Centre would not be able to find a judge, prompting the Congress to accuse the Opposition party of trying to “intimidate” judges.

Today, Modi confidant and former Gujarat junior home minister Amit Shah joined his BJP colleagues in slamming the Centre. “To insist on an inquiry days before the government is going to change is nothing but politics of vindictiveness, Shah told a TV channel.

Cong ‘sherpas’

Union minister Jairam Ramesh has said that top Congress leaders were “found lacking” in political communication and that the party was unable to effectively counter the BJP’s “aggressive campaign” of projecting the UPA as corrupt.

“One of the foundations of politics is communication and communication from the very top... by the ‘sherpas’ alone… unfortunately, we were found lacking. Political communication does not take place at the last minute,” PTI quoted the Congress leader as saying in Hyderabad.